November 30, 2010

Takahashi Mutsuo

Takahashi Mutsuo [Japan]

Born in Yahata, Kyushu in 1937, Takahashi Mutsuo spent most of his early youth with relatives and other families, his father having died soon after his birth. With the end of World War II, he began to write poetry, publishing his first book of poetry, Mino, My Bull, in 1959. During that same period Takahashi became friends with Friar Tsuda, and became interested in Catholicism. He graduated from Fakuoka University of Education in 1962.

From the beginning, Takahashi's poetry was overtly homosexual, and his second book, Rose Tree, Fake Lovers, published in 1964, has been compared to the writings of Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg. The same year, he became acquainted with Japanese novelist, Mishima Mishima Yukio, with whom he was to remain friendly until Mishima's suicide in 1970.

Over the next several years, Takahaskhi published numerous books of poetry, fiction, and essays, including Dirty Ones, Do Dirtier Things, Twelves Perspective, Ode, Holy Triangle, and King of the Calendar. He also traveled extensively, staying for more than a month in New York City in 1971 and for briefer periods in Israel, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Belgium, England, Mexico, Korea, Spain, Morocco, Portugal, Taiwan and other countries throughout the world. His work has been translated into many languages.

In the 1970s Takahashi worked with translations of Greek and French literature, published a magazine, Symposium, and continued his travels, this time to San Francisco, Germany, Austria, Hong Kong, and Algeria. In 1982 he received the 20th Rekitei Prize for his collection of poetry, The Structure of the Kingdom. The same year, he published A Bunch of Keys.

Other prizes include the Takami Jun Prize for Usagi no Niwa (The Garden of Rabbits), the Yomiuri Literary Prize for his haiku and tanka Keiko Onjiki (Practice/Drinking Eating), the Gendai-shi Hanatsubaki (Modern Poetry Flowering Camellia) Prize for Tabi no E: Imagines Itineris (Pictures from a Journey), and the Nihon Gendai Shiika Bungakukan (Museum of Modern Japanese Verse) Prize for Ane no Shima (Older Sister's Island).


Mino, Atashi no Oushi (Tokyo: Sabaku Shijin Shûdan Jimukyoku, 1959); Bara no Ki, Nise no Koibito-tachi (Tokyo: Gendaishi Kōbō, 1964); Nemuri to Okashi to Rakka to (Tokyo: Sōgetsu Art Center, 1965); Yogoretaru Mono wa Sarani Yogoretaru Koto o Nase (Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1966); Takahashi Mutsuo Shishū (Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1969); Homeuta (Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1971); Koyomi no Ō: Rex Fastorum (Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1972); Kyūku chō [haiku] (Tokyo: Ukawa Shobō 1973); Dōshi I (Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1974); Watakushi (Tokyo: Ringo-ya, 1975); Kōdō Shō [haiku] (Tokyo: Ringo-ya, 1977); Michi no Ae (with Kyūka-Chō) [tanka] (Tokyo: Ringo-ya, 1978); Dōshi II (Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1978); Sasurai to iu Na no Chi nite (Tokyo: Shoshi Yamada, 1979); Shinsen Takahashi Mutsu Shishū (Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1980); Ōkoku no Kōzō(Tokyo: Ozawa Shoten, 1982); Kagitaba (Toyko: Shoshi Yamada, 1982); Bunkōki: Prismatica (Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1985); Usagi no Niwa (Tokyo: Shoshi Yamada, 1987); Keiko Onjiki [haiku and tanka] (Tokyo: Zenzaikutsu, 1987); Tabi no E: Imagines Itineris (Toyko: Shoshi Yamada, 1992); Nii Makura [tanka] (Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1992); Kanazawa Hyakku, Kanazawa Hyakkei [haiku] (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1993); Zoku: Takahashi Mutsuo Shishū (Tokyo: Shichôsha, 1995); Ane no Shima (Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1998); Tamamono (Tokyo: Seikoku Sho'oku, 1998).


Poems of a Penisist, trans. by Hiroaki Sato (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1957); A Bunch of Keys, trans. by Hiroaki Sato (Trumansburg, New York: The Crossing Press, 1984); Sleeping, Sinning, Falling, trans. by Hiroaki Sato (San Francisco: City Lights, 1992); Voice Garden: Selected Poems by Mutsuo Takahashi, trans. by Hiroaki Sato (Tokyo: Star Valley Library, 1996); selections in Partings at Daen: An Anthologyof Japanese Gay Literature, trans. by Stephen D. Miller, Hiroaki Sato, and Steven Karpa (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1995); selections in Queer Dharma: Voices of Gay Buddhists, trans. by Jeffrey Angles (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1999); On the Shores: New and Selected Poems, trans. by Mitsuko Ohno and Frank Sewell (Dublin: Dedalus Press, 2006); We of Zipangu: Selected Poems, trans. by James Kirkup and Tamaki Makoto (Tormorden, United Kingdom: Arc Publications, 2006)


My bull
Before I reached your knees
I was already your sister
I climbed your sturdy legs
Or from between your crescent-shaped horns
I looked at the distant ocean
From field to field where the wind blazes
We ran together
You brandishing your horns
I streaming my hair behind me
At night we slept, holding each other
Belly to belly, thigh to thigh
Until the terrible sunrise

—Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

(from Mino, Watashi no Oushi, 1959)

To a Boy

you are a hidden watering place under the trees
where, as the day darkens, gentle beasts with calm eyes
appear one after another.

Even if the sun drops flaming at the end of the fields where grass stirs greenly
and a wind pregnant with coolness and night-dew agitates your leafy bush,
it is only a premonition.

The tree of solitude that soars with ferocity,
crowned with a swirling night,
still continues in your dark place.

─Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

(from Sasurai to iu Na no Chi nite, 1979 [poems from 1958-1961])

At the Throat

Fury─iron swung down,
the, black fleeing in many blue nights.
For a while through the trees your face, now a pulpy mess, chased me,
closed eyelashes trebling as if they wanted to say something.
But I no longer envy your gentle throat.
What has come between you and me:
an act, a crime─and, time.
Hot morning, throat gurgling,
I drink water. Sweat turns into beads, blankets my forehead, and trembles.
Reflected in the sweat beads, a breeze from a tamarisk is trembling.
I take a plow in my arms of solitude and, in the deep noon, become a man.
That pitiful fellow─I devise the coarse soil into two strands of soil
and, back turned to the noon where silence resounds, and plowing,
walk step by step toward the evening with lightning flaring in the clouds.
─In the barn's cold darkness gleams a razor-sharp sickle.

─Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

(from Sasurai to iu Na no Chi nite, 1979 [poems from 1958-1961])

Foreskin (from Ode)

And with the tounge tip sharpened like a needle, everts the wrapping cloth
A bandage would tightly round and round the ring finger
The bandages for an abscess, the bandages rolling up a fireman burned all over
The bandages that wrap the invisible man, the bandages with a mummified boy- king sleeping in [them
The white cover-cloth a leper has pulled over himself, from head to toe
The flowering stalk of a butterbur, a peapod, skin-covers of a bamboo shoot
A miscanthus roll, a taffy in a bamboo leaf, a butterball wrapped in cellophane
A hat, the Pope's miter, a cardinal's hat, the hood for a child in the snow country
The chef's somewhat grimy white toque
The K.K.K. hood, socks, a rubber thimble
A rubber glove everted like a pelt of gelatin
A god's glove that has fallen from heaven toward the sea of chaos
A turban, a calpec, the hood of the Eskimo parka
Roofs rising in the Kremlin, in rows as if in a fairy tale
In the Kremlin, from the balcony
Soviet elders wave to May Day crowds in Red Square
All in uniform caps
At Buckingham Palace, guards swagger in bearskins
Pericles' helmet, Napoleon's hat
The Pohai Emperor's hat, the Egyptian priest's headdress
The Old Blossomer's cap, Mr. Ebisu's cap
The fearful shoes, the shoes that, once put on, can't be removed
The rubber boots worn by a young cock in the fish market
The riding boots made to fit the legs closely
Each time the rider walks its spurs clack, clack
A hill-fresh yam wearing a maxicoat
A wandering yakuza's slightly soiled cape
A man rolled in a mattress carried by thugs to be dumped in the river
One unhooks the beltless, pulls the zipper
And recklessly pulls down the pants
A gaiter unwound swiftly, the leather chaps
A shutter pulled down with a rattle, a curtain, a double-leaf louver door
Concealing a man, panting, his hairy shins showing, a surgical intern in white
A noncommissioned offer's cap pulled down to the eyes, his uniform well-creased
The armor hiding the young blond knight, his Lordship
On a morning when each exhaled breath visibly turns into steam, white misty droplets
An auto repairman's one-piece workwear
The zipper extending down its stained cloth from neck to crotch
When one pulls it down in one breath
There, vividly, jumps out the young flesh, flushed with cold─
The leaping pink flesh wrapped in a lobster shell
The pelty diving suit, a suede suit
Skinned with a stone and bloody, a wild animal pelt
An antelope, a wolf, a coyote, their pelts
The membrane that wraps the bloody heart of a wild animal
The membrane of the morning haze that wraps the bloody daybreak

─Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

(from Homeuta, 1971)

Myself in the Manner of a Suicide

I will be buried in the road, cut far off from my right hand.
(Because of its behavior the right hand is forever cursed.)
Among the roads, a road with particularly heavy traffic of carts and horses.
Endlessly crisscrossed by the ruts that come and go,
my face will have deep wrinkles imitating agony chiseled into it.
My flesh will rot like a seed potato and, rotting, become transparent;
but because, blocked by the hard surface of the road, it cannot sprout,
in the dark earth my face, my phallus, will meaninglessly multiply.
Rather, from the sinful hand that was cut off and buried
I will bud as a new plant,
but the multiplying me in the earth will never take part in it.
I will become a single tree, spread in the light,
and as a testimony to myself putrefying in the earth, to myself that was once in the sunlight,
will flutter, and blaze, in one spot in the ravaged landscape.
Of that dark blazing face of that dark blazing day,
I now exist as a clumsy copy.

Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

(from Watakushi, 1971)

Myself with Cheese

As en embodiment of the word "manducation," for example
there will be a hunk of cheese with a golden fragrance.
If, to spotlight the manner of its golden embodiment,
the plate on which the hunk of cheese is placed is an ordinary plate of tin,
and where the tin plate is a casual wood table,
what will be the manner of my being with knife in hand, in front of the table?
I, as poet, witness this embodiment of gold.
Because it is said that to witness as poet
must be more impersonal than to witness as eater,
before the plate of cheese, my beard is an impersonal beard,
my wet teeth and tongue are impersonal teeth and tongue,
even the lifted knife is an impersonal knife.

Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

(from Watakushi, 1971)

Myself in the Manner of a Troubador

Mounting a horse with an abundant mane and in glittery armor, a hero
will have to have a face as dazzling as that orb of day.
But a base one ordered to sing of heroes,
I cannot have a face, however ordinary.

Like a photo of the hateful man an abandoned woman tore into shreds,
My face is torn apart and lost in advance.
Faceless, holding in both hands a lyre quite like a face,
on a hill with a view of the field shining with battle dust, under a plane tree,

or on a boulder of a cape overlooking the sea where triremes come and go,
I sit for thousands of years, I just continue to sit.
The odes that, faceless, I sing in praise of passing heroes
overflow as beautiful blood from the chest would I hade with the lyre.

Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

(from Watakushi, 1975)

Myself as in the Onan Legend

My face will be dark.
The glittering liquid that spurts out of my holy procreative center
will not be received into that contractile interior, which is eternally female,
but spill, and keep spilling, on the cold lifeless ground,
so my sons, who are my shadow, will as Little Leeches make a round of the earth,
make a round of the water labyrinth at the bottom of the earth, make a round of
the crisscross paths inside the tree,
and, ejected from the skyward mouth of every leaf at the tip of the tree,
will drift aimlessly in the empty blue sky and become lost,
so my face should have been what my sons of the endlessly continuing
glittering links of light began to weave and ended weaving,
so the overflowing light is behind me, not before me.
My face, the whole face as one large mouth of darkness,
in the overflowing, spilling light, is voicelessly shouting.

Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

(from Watakushi, 1975)

Three Curses for Those to Be Born

"Be Afraid of Fish"
Be afraid of fish.
Be afraid of fish that have no voice.
Be afraid of fish that are soul-shaped.
Be afraid of fish that are the alphabet at the bottom of man's memory.
Be afraid of fish that are more aged than man or tortoise.
Be afraid of fish that came into being when water did.
Be afraid of fish that know every strand of bog moss, yet keep silent about it.
Be afraid of fish that are more shadowy than the shadow in the water which is more
dreamy than the dream.
Be afraid of fish that silently slip in and out of your nightly dream.
Be afraid of fish that remain in the water even when they mate.
Be afraid of fish whose gills continue to move even while alseep.
Be afraid of fish that move their mouths, afloat, with their air bladders, in
watery heaven.
Be afraid of fish, that are softer than lovers when caught.
Be afraid of fish, the foul feeders, that swallowed a god's phallus that was
twisted off and discarded.
Be afraid of fish that shed human tears when broiled on fire.
Be afraid of fish that are your fathers, that are your mothers.
Be afraid of fish that occupy your entirety the morning after you were bored by fish.
Be afraid of fish that remain fish-shaped even after turning into bones.
As for the fish bones, put them on your palms and return them to the water,
going down, barefoot, to the beach where your sewage pipe empties itself.

"Wheat King"
I am the Wheat King.
My dried-up small face is half rotten in the darkness of earth.
Extending, transparent and arched, from the black, cold putrefaction, are the
buds of the disease.
Feeling the air of early spring, the buds grow sparsely and turn pale as a dead man's brow.
When the wind becomes warm, the feeble wheat seedlings catch fever at once.
The ears of wheat, broiled with high fevr and emaciated, are pulled off by women's voilent
thigh-like fingers.
and are slashed, slashed with flails all day long.
Stone mortars smash me, and when I become wheat flour of poor coloration, I'm put through sieves.
I am kneaded with water, baked in ovens, and, as shabby noodles, carried into mouths with
rotten teeth.
The left-overs are thrown, with saliva, into vats, and are made to ferment grumblingly.
I become a coarse liquor, go down men's sinuous throats, and wander wih their muddy blood.
I am disfigured life that is poured out from man into woman at the end of travels of sufferings.
I am great death that fills that disfigured life.
Take me from this seed pot.

"Those with Wings"
Those with wings
those with long beaks
those that fly across clamorously moving their beaks up and down
those with pointed eyes
those that come and go between the city of life and the city of death
those that cross over both into purity and into filth
those that circle man's sky cautiously
those that, with scaly legs, alight on the sandy beach of time
those that clutch pebbles with crooked nails
those that stand about in flocks
those that ruffle up their feathers, vying for food laid out by the gods
those that are treacherous and easily surprised
those that flap up all at once
those that are bathed in overflowing scarlet as they dive into the sunset
those that chase the shooting stars
those that reach the shore of the spirits throughout the night
those that fly up, holding white-haired, wrinkled babies in their beaks
those that fly down, like frost, to the ridges of roofs in dawn
those that push orphan souls into the crotches of women sloppily asleep:
shoot those suspicious shadows.

Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

(from Kagitaba, 1982)

On the Reality of the Pot

There is a pot.

The fact that there is a pot is not more certain than the certainty of the syntax that says there is a pot.

To make factually certain that there is a pot, the position of the pot, for example, on the axis of co-ordinates may be set. For now, the pot is in the darkness. Definitely outside the line of vision of my, or your, wide open eyes.

It is probably useful also to limit the darkness. For example, a corner of a kitchen made by piling up cut stones, the space below a dangling bunch of garlic, the tip of a whisker of a Chinese cricket, a line of light from the skylight─also outside any of these.

Next, we make limits within the limits and set its positon in the darkness. Its ass on the oven built directly on the earthen floor (or rather by putting stones in the shape of !¬!), it has a wooden lid on top. "On top" means simply "facing the ceiling, the upper-lower relations carry no meaning. (Of course, the space below the bunch of garlic, too, is meaningless, and the tip of a whisker of the Chinese cricket also becomes meaningless.)

This means that to say the vigorous tongue of fire is licking the tail of the pot from below is also meaningless. If the expression, "from below," is meaningless, the expression, "tail of the pot," naturally becomes meaningless. Because the tail exists as something opposed to the head and, in an upright being, the two imply upper-lower relations.

As long as upper-lower relations do not make sense, you can't necessarily say of fire that it's licking the pot. The expression, "The pot is licking the fire," won't be wrong, either.

Here, let us digress somewhat and anecdotally consider the fire. That the fire is coming out of the wood placed on the earthen floor is no more than one possible explanation. If, for example, we are to take into consideration the match which was the direct cause of the fire in this instance, it will be more appropriate to explain that there is a certain amount of time between the wood, which, because of the fire that came from elsewhere, is in the transitional process from wood to carbon (and ultimately to ash), and the pot. Of course, you must at the same time think of reversing the order of "wood" and pot" to "pot" and "wood."

Well, then, is it possible to say that the fire came from the match? It will be far more accurate to say that even with the match the fire came from elsewhere to it, no, to the space between the compound at the tip of the match-stick and the compound on the side of the match-box (match-stick and match-box may be reversed) and stayed at the tip of the matchstick for a certain amount of time.

If that is the case, where did the fire come from? Is it that in some invisible place there is the ideated world or hometown of fire and it has been called out to signal the friction between the tip of the match-stick and the side of the box? Or is it that one of the seeds of fire which are everywhere in the field of air has been made to sprout by a sudden stimulation? We will leave to the future the unknowability of this conjecture, as it is.

If we could make a transition from the uncertainty of the fire to the certainty of the pot, we certainly would be happy. No, it is fully possible that such happiness is no more than our wishful thinking.

At any rate, let's begin with the shape and the size of the pot. As for the shape, we will choose that of the traveler's hat of the ancient god of the road, the skull of the enemy commander which was also used as a wine cup at the victory banquet, the grave which the convict is forced to dig for himself, the mortar-shape of hell pictured in our short, wide-mouthed, deep, and as conspicuously special-shaped as possible. As for the size, its diameter is about the length of the lower arm of an adult male. Its depth is approximately the length from the wrist to the elbow. But as something made by hand, the size is irregular. That is to say, both the diameter and the depth may differ slightly, depending on where you measure them.

If its shape and size are special, it is desirable that the material be also special. One would hope it is shoddy pig iron made by stepping on the foot-bellows and containting a good deal of impure elements. Therefore, it is on the whole thick and uneven. Because it has remained intimate with fire for at least a hundred fifty to sixty years in time (assuming there is time), the parts that are directly exposed to fire and the parts that aren't have changed differently: either thinning by heating or increasing in thickness through the attachment of soot. There are differences in parts, but on the whole it is as black as if the darkness around it had condensed. It may indeed be the condensed darkness, not "as if."

Let us continue for convenience. If, as we say conveniently, fire is burning outside, something is cooking inside. This is what's called logic. The most fragile fiction.

15 beans. Like oatmeal. Like overripe tomatoes. Like meat with bones....It may simply be water. Even the air. Or vacuum. Though it must be vacuum as substance.

Why are we concerned that it must be some substance? Because if the reality of the pot remains uncertain after all this description, we will want to make the certainty of what's in it guarantee the certainty of the container.

Still, if what's cooking is vacuum, the pig iron that is the material of the pot itself will cook and diminish in weight though only little by little. But wait. The pig iron may not be diminishing, but merely moving elsewhere. That will be the case, especially if the pig iron is a metaphor for the condensed darkness.

The darkness is a container. Rather, the notion of container starts out from the darkness. If your brain is thinking, about the true nature of what's cooking in that darkness, what's cooking may well be in your brain. Will you say the brain, too, is no more than a metaphor for the darkness?

There is a pot, we began. It could have been a shoe, a jute bag, an armory, a mesure for wheat, a silkworm moth, a horse-bean pod, or any other thing.

Even so, we chose a pot over everything else, because a pot is thought to be extremely commong and boringly certain. But, for now, we must pay attention to the point, "is thought." When it comes to where the pot, which is thought to be certain, came from, we must say that our conjecture is cast in the unknowable darkness, just like jour conjecture on where the fire, which is thought to be uncertain, came from.

That there is a pot is that there is darkness. This is the same as saying we are. That is, the darkness called us has conjecture the reality of the unreality of the darkness called a pot. Or, the reverse of that.

Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

(from Kagitaba, 1982)


"Mino," "To a Boy," "At the Throat," "Foreskin," "Myself in the Manner of a Suicide," "Myself with Cheese," "Myself in the Manner of a Troubador," and "Myself as in the Onan Legend,"
Reprinted from A Bunch of Keys, trans. by Hiroaki Sato (Trumansburg, New York: The Crossing Press, 1984).
Copyright ©1984 by Hiroaki Sato. Reprinted by permission of Hiroaki Sato.

"Three Curses for Those to Be Born" and "On the Reality of the Pot"
Reprinted from Sleeping, Sinning, Falling, trans. by Hiroaki Sato (San Francisco: City Lights, 1992). Copyright ©1992 by Hiroaki Sato. Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books.

Frigyes Karinthy

Frigyes Karinthy (Hungary)

Frigyes Karinthy was a prolific writers of short stories, poetry, plays, and essays. But he is best known as a humorist and satirist, the author of sequels to Swift's Gulliver's Travels — Utazás Feremidóba (1916, Journey to Faremído) and Capillaria (1921) — and the autobiographical Utazás a koponyám Körül (1937, Journey Around my Skull). His poetry — often a blend of Biblical-like diction and colloquial language or, as one critic has described it, "a mixture of carefully polished...classical language and broadly-rolling, Whitmanesque verse" — was collected in Nam mondhatom al senkinek (1930, I cannot tell it to anyone) and Üzenet a palaaaackban (1938, Message in a Bottle).

In Hungary he is also beloved as the author of a book of parodies, Így írtok to (This Is How YOU Write), many of whose lines have become proverbial. Like many of the New York Algonquin writers in the United States, Karinthy became known as a wit of almost legendary repute. With writer Dezsű Kosztolányi, he held literary court at the famed Budapest New York Café, as he and Kosztolányi played sophisticated verbal games and satirized the leading Hungarian poets such as Endre Ady, Mihály Babits, Gyula Illyés, Attila József and Lōrinc Szabó.

Karinthy's son, the noted novelist Ferenc Karinthy, contributed to the anecdotes of his father. His other son, Gabor, is a poet.


Nem mondhatom el senkinek (1930); Üzenet a palackban (1938)


Selections in In Quest of the Miracle Stag: The Poetry of Hungary, edited by Adam Makkai (Chicago: Atlantis Centaur/Budapest: Corvina, 1996).

The Message in the Bottle
(The Poet Is Asked Why He No Longer Writes Poems)

(a few illegible lines, then:) fingers
are frozen. This bottle's in my left hand. The right
holds the joystick. It has grown very stiff.
There's thick ice on the wings. I don't
know whether the engine can take it. It makes Queer
snoring noises in here. It's terribly cold.
I don't know how high up I am
(or how deep? or how far?)
Nearness and distance — all empty. And all
my instruments are frozen: the scales
of Lessing and the compressometer of the Academy;
the Martinetti altimeter, too. I think
I must be high enough because the penguins
no longer lift their heads as my propeller
drones above them, cutting across
the Northern Lights. They no longer hear me. Here are
no signs to see. Down there's some rocky land. New land?
Unknown? Ever explored before? By whom? Perhaps
by Scott? Strindberg? Byron? Leopardi?
I don't know. And I confess
I don't care. I'm cold, the taste
of this thin air is biter, horribly bitter...
It could be that my nose has started to bleed.
I'm hungry... I've eaten all my biscuits.
Some unknown star keeps blinking
at the point I gaze at. The pemmican
has gone maggoty... What star can that be?
Perhaps already... from the beyond...? And what's the date?
Wednesday? Thursday? Or New Year's Eve? Who could be
sitting around the homely hearth? Little brothers,
singing birds,
beside the anxiously guarded hearth
of petty feelings; bird brothers in the depths
of the human heart's jungle... Hallo! Hallo!
Is there no one to hear this exiled fellow-crow, myself?
A little while ago
something crackled through the rusty antenna of my radio...
I hear that Mr. D. has found a fine adjective
in Banality Harbor
while C. has discovered a new metaphor
between two rhymes in Love Canal.
The society's reporting it. Congratulations!
I'll...tell you all...that I...
when I get home...that I...
when I get
all that I...felt up here...only when
he escapes....can....the traveler....relate it....
But how does he every escape to return?
Now I put these few confused lines
into the empty wine bottle
and drop it through the hatch. Like rolling dice!
If an uncouth pearl-diver should find it, let him
throw it away, a broken oyster,
bt should a literate sailor find it,
I send this message through him:
"Here I am, at the Thirteenth Latitude of Desolation,
the Hundredth Longitude of Shame,
the utmost Altitude of teeth-gnashing Defiance,
somewhere far out, at the point of the Ultimate,
and still I wonder whether it is possible
to go any farther...

—Translated from the Hungarian by Paul Tabori


Towards your hand,
Towards your hand, your hair
Towards your hand, your hair, your eyes
Towards your hand, your hair, your eyes, your skirt
Why this snatching? — You ask me always,
Annoyed and loudly, or shaking your head in silence —

Why not soft and gentle caresses,
Yes, well behaved, like others would do it.
Why this snatching, and in my eyes a twinkle
And worse still, I am laughing — impudently!
It is so strident, rude and ear-splitting!
You'll leave me here at once, or smack my hand!
Flower, don't leave me, I rather tell you
I tell you — I breathe in your ear, wait,
Just smooth this curl away now.

Towards your hand,
Towards your hand, your hair
Towards your hand, your hair, your eyes
Towards your hand, your hair, your eyes, your skirt
What keeps snatching — you still cannot remember?
What keeps snatching — you still can't think of it? —
though you've this same expression
Always when, annoyed, you try to find it off
Holding your hair, your eyes, your skirt against it.

Towards your stem
Towards your stem stamen
Towards your stem stamen pistil
Towards your stem stamen pistil petals
What keeps snatching, flower? — The wind!
The wind, the wind, impudent, fickle wind
Chirping cheerfully, seeing you annoyed.

Flower, what next?
This was just a light breeze
This can only snatch and chirp away,
But now I have to speak to you about my family,
Listen, I say!
Proud, Trumpeting Tempest was my father —
The famous Typhoon of Arkansas my mother,
A whirling tornado married my sister —

Fair flowerfluff, have you ever wallowed exalted — exhausted
Hoisted on a heaven-piercing hurricane?
So don't smack me now on the hand, dear.

—Translated from the Hungarian by Peter Zollman

Struggle for Life

Brother, it seems, you have been beaten.
As Law decrees and Precept goes —
Your corpse is sniffed round by hyenas
And circled by the hungry crows.

It's not the pack who were the stronger,
Smaller beasts beat you to tatters —
And who fights now over your carcass:
Jackdaw? Jackal? Hardly matters.

Your fist when it was time to use it
Always stopped halfway in the air —
Was it Charity? Weakness? May be.
Fear? Pride? Modesty? I don't care.

Or mere disgust, perhaps. So be it.
Good. Amen, I accept the terms.
I prefer that worms should eat me
Rather than I should feed on worms.*

—Translated from the Hungarian by Peter Zollman

*These two lines have become proverbial in Hungarian.


"The Message in the Bottle," "Dandelion," and "Struggle for Life"
Reprinted from In Quest of the Miracle Stag: The Poetry of Hungary, edited by Adam Makkai (Chicago: Atlantis Centaur/Budapest: Covina, 1996). Copyright ©1996 by Atlantis-Centaur. Reprinted by permission of Adam Makkai, with thanks to Peter Zollman and Paul Tabori.

November 28, 2010

Michael Gizzi

Michael Gizzi [USA]

Born in Schenectady, New York, Michael Gizzi has lived the majority of his life in Providence, Rhode Island and Lenox, Massachusetts. He earned degrees in English and Creative Writing from Brown University. He spent the next decade as a licensed arborist in southern New England. He was during this period closely associated with the poets surrounding Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop’s Burning Deck Press, which published three volumes of his poetry: Bird As (1976), Avis (1979), and Species of Intoxication (1983).

Gizzi moved in the early 1980s to the Berkshires in westernmost Massachusetts, where he began teaching. For the next twenty years he coordinated many poetry readings, most notably at Simon’s Rock of Bard College and at Arrowhead, the former home of Herman Melville. These readings included among others: Robert Creeley, John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, James Schuyler, Bernadette Mayer, Clark Coolidge, Michael Palmer, Lyn Hejinian, Susan Howe, Rosmarie Waldrop, Harry Mathews, and Emmanuel Hocquard.

Throughout the 1990s Gizzi edited Hard Press and lingo magazine. The press published a variety of titles, among them Bernadette Mayer’s classic Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters, Merrill Gilfillan’s poetic travelogue Burnt House to Paw Paw, and Trevor Winkfield’s resplendent art book Pageant. Gizzi has continued in this publishing vein with Qua Press, which he co-edits with poet Craig Watson in Jamestown, Rhode Island.

Gizzi has collaborated on a number of projects with Clark Coolidge. Hard Press published their Lowell Connector: Lines and Shots from Kerouac’s Lowell in 1993. John Ashbery said of Gizzi’s No Both (1997), “Razor sharp but also rich and generously compelling, Michael Gizzi’s poetry lambastes as it celebrates, bringing us finally to a place of poignant irresolution.” He is presently a visiting lecturer at Brown University, where he coordinates the Downcity Poetry Series.

Gizzi died in 2010.


Bird As (Providence, Rhode Island: Burning Deck, 1976); Avis (Providence, Rhode Island: Burning Deck, 1979); Species of Intoxication (Providence, Rhode Island: Burning Deck,1983); Just Like a Real Italian Kid (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures 1990); Continental Harmony (New York: Roof Books,1991); Gyptian in Hortulus (Providence, Rhode Island: Paradigm Press,1991); Interferon (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures,1995); No Both (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures/West Stockbridge, Massachusetts: Hard Press,1997); Too Much Johnson (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures,1999); Cured in the Going Bebop (Providence, Rhode Island: Paradigm Press,1999); My Terza Rima (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 2001); The Depths of Deadpan (Providence, Rhode Island: Burning Deck: 2009); The Collected Poems of Michael Gizzi (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Firgures: 2015)

╬Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
A Brodeyak (1942-1993)

It's not humility I'm after nor the pit of my gums
that change verbose signals in this cocoon I keep decoding
call it Opera Buffo just stay the hell away from my noses
they're too rheumy for the harpoons you swallow

Consider the swabby who shares me to you
from perfect glottal yodelling in the next-to-nothing sense
Davy Jones hipflask in the john forsythia
53 rounds with the storied Mazeppa
ballpeen on the lens infiltrating looks waving glemas

And I think how your nails must feel
stuck in a magazine trollop
your sunny likeness misfit to this undertow elongating
thirst for disintegration that lines the sides of shadows
emitting phosphor atop replays one stops to ignore

The child swing ruffian giddyap truck tire rascalings
in grey air as if crystal clicked into memory tic
crystallized names and fallen trees
fallen as this passion inside of me
as you drop to your knees for a taste from another sun

Reprinted for Object. Copyright (c)1994 by Michael Gizzi

╬Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English

Chimes at Midnight

The father in exile
stripped of his sundial
borrows the equator for a belt

the son in translation
misrules on a run-through
for eternity

noon would love to behave
like midnight
for once

the past
rides out of houses
green with red breath

only the billowing overcoat
is left everything else
is made up

Reprinted from Big Bridge, III, no. 2 (2005). Copyright ©2005 by Michael Gizzi.

November 27, 2010

Standard Schaefer

Standard Schaefer [USA]

Standard Schaefer was born in Houston, Texas in 1971. His father was an office furniture/equipment salesman and eventually became a fanchisee for an office supply manufacturer. His mother was a teacher, translator, and a secretary for a Chilean based pipeline manufacturer.

In 1992, after working for the Public Broadcast Systems, Schaefer moved to Los Angeles to attend Occidental College. There he encountered the poet Martha Ronk, and studied poetry and fiction with Dennis Phillips and Douglas Messerli. He graduated Magna Cum Laude, with a B.A. in English and Comparative Literature in 1995. In 1997 he took a Master of Professional Writing degree from the University of Southern California. In 1998 he worked temporarily as an editorial assistant for Filmmaker Magazine, and throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s he worked for various small businesses from wine importers to dog grooming. In 2001 he developed his own marketing and ad copy business, Schaefer Enterprises, concentrating on food distribution and real estate development. More recently, he joined the staff of Just Dissent, an organization that protects civil liberties. He also teaches at Otis College of Art.

In 1997 he began, with Evan Calbi, an important Los Angeles literary magazine, Rhizome, which lasted for four issues through 2000. Like many other Angeleno publications, it combined a wide range of American poetry with the work of international figures and contained extensive reviews. With the closure of that magazine, he worked as co-editor, with Paul Vangelisti, for Ribot: A Journal of the Arts. He also edited Vangelisti’s selected poem for Agincourt in 2001. He is currently the non-fiction editor of the Otis College of Art & Design journal, The New Review of Literature.

In 1999 his book of poetry, Nova, was selected as a winner of the National Poetry Series and was published by Sun & Moon Press in 2001. His second book, Water & Power, appeared in 2005. His poems, fiction and essays have appeared in numerous magazines.


Nova (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 2001); Water & Power (New York: Agincourt Press, 2005)
To read poems by this author, click below:

Leland Hickman

Leland Hickman / Photo by Rob Bradley

Leland Hickman [USA]

Leland Hickman was born on September 15, 1934 in Santa Barbara, California. He moved with his family to Bakersfield, living on a farm in Carpinteria, and, ultimately returned to Santa Barbara where he attended high school. In addition to acting in high school plays, Hickman performed in local theater productions of the Children’s Theatre of Santa Barbara and the Group L Theater Workshop.

After high school, Hickman attended the University of California at Santa Barbara, and later studied at Berkeley, where he performed with the Berkeley Drama Guild.

Completing a tour in the Army, Hickman moved to New York City to continue his theater career. He toured nationally with the Bishop’s Company in 1957, worked in the Canal-Fulton Summer Theater in Ohio in the summer of 1958, and performed with the Equity Library Theatre in New York. Subsequently, he studied at the New York Academy of the American Shakespeare Festival.

In 1961 he returned to California, performing at the Equity Library Theatre West in Los Angeles. He remained in Los Angeles for three years, returning to New York. But in 1969, He moved to Los Angeles—briefly living in San Francisco—where he and his companion, Charles Macaulay, lived the rest of their lives.

His literary career began in the mid 1960s. In 1967, The Hudson Review published “Lee Sr. Falls to the Floor,” an introductory poem to Hickman’s major work, Tiresias, his “ongoing long-poem” about his feelings for mankind, poetics, and America. He continued to write poetry through the 1970s, published a section of Tiresias as Great Slave Lake Suite in 1980. Portions of the work also appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies throughout this period. His work, highly narrative, might almost be seen as a sort of Western, mythologized version of Walt Whitman’s work.

From 1977 to 1981 (issues nine to eighteen), Hickman worked as the poetry editor for the Los Angeles literary magazine, Bachy, published by Papa Bach Bookstore. In 1981, he co-founded, with Paul Vangelisti, the magazine Boxcar: A Magazine of the Arts, two issues of which were published. In 1985, he began editing and publishing Temblor, which continued for ten issues. This magazine, one of the most important of its day, is noted for the publication of national figures, particularly those connected with “Language” writing, and international poets.

Throughout these years, Hickman also worked intensely with local established and emerging poets, questioning and challenging their poetic values and methods. Accordingly, he became an influential figure within the Southern California poetic community, one who would apprise his peers’ works honestly, tolerating little self-satisfaction and personal eccentricities in their writing.

In 1991 Hickman died of AIDS.


Great Slave Lake Suite (Tieresias I:9:B) (Santa Monica, California: Momentum Press, 1980); Lee Sr Falls to the Floor (Los Angeles: Jahbone Press, 1991); Tiresias: The Collected Poems of Leland Hickman (Callicoon, New York: Nightboat Books / Los Angeles: Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2009)

Press this link for a tribute to Leland Hickman:

Franklin Bruno

Franklin Bruno [USA]

Born in Pomona, California in 1968, Franklin Bruno was from a family of Italian immigrants. All four of his grandparents had come from Italy, and both his grandfathers grew grapes and boysenberrys in the area. His father taught psychology at San Bernardino College, and wrote several textbooks and popular reference works.

Bruno received his Bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1990 from Pomona College, and a Master’s degree from Claremont Graduate School. He is currently completing his doctoral dissertaton in philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles. Although his philosophical training has primarily been within the Anglo-American tradition, he personally resists the notion of an unbridgeable gap between that tradition and Continental philosophy. At UCLA he has taught courses on property rights and symbolic logic.

Although Bruno describes himself as mostly self-taught with regard to poetry, he was influenced by courses at Pomona with Jed Rasula and Dick Barnes. He began writing seriously in the early 1990s, and published his first work in Paul Vangelisti’s Ribot in 1995. He also participated as one of the writers contributing on a regular, monthly basis, to Vangelisti’s Lowghost. Since that time, he has contributed to numerous journals, and has had one small collection published by Guy Bennett’s Seeing Eye Books, AM/FM (1999). He has also completed a full-length collection, “Rhododactyl.”

Other than poetry, Bruno is very active in music and music criticism. A guitarist, he has been the primary singer and songwriter for the rock trio, Nothing Painted Blue. The group has released four albums to date, and have another, Taste the Flavor, planned for 2004. He has also been involved with other recording artists such as Jenny Toomey and The Extra Glenns. Music criticism of his has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice, Spin, Time Out New York, and CMJ Music Monthly.

He describes his poetry as “arranged” or, preferably, “accumulated” rather than written. The work often deals with music and other elements of popular culture.


AM/FM (Los Angeles: Seeing Eye Books, 1999)

To read poems by this author, click below:

Todd Baron

Todd Baron [USA]

Born in Hollywood, Todd Baron was a child actor, performing in movies, television, and voice-overs, for twelve years. He attended Immaculate Heart College for two years, studying with Martha Ronk, and later—focusing on contemporary poetics—with Peter Levitt. In 1984 he moved to San Francisco, studying at New College with various California poets, including Robert Duncan, Michael Palmer, Lyn Hejinian, and Diane DiPrima. He earned his Master’s degree in poetics in 1989, returning to live in Los Angeles.

Earlier, Baron edited a journal, ISSUE (1982-1876) with Tosh Berman, and when that journal ceased, he began Re*Map (1989-2001). With Dennis Phillips, Martha Ronk and Paul Vangelisti, he co-founded Littoral books in 1991, a press that developed out of these poets’ relationships with Lee Hickman. In 1997 he and Noah De Lissovy ran a poetics reading series at Otis Art Institute (now Otis College of Art). Over the past few years he has written art criticism for various journals, including Artnews, Art Issues, and New Art Examiner.

Baron taught at the Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles City College, and West Los Angeles College. For the past eight years, he has taught at the Crosssroads School for the Arts and Sciences in Santa Monica. He also continues to work with film, serving as a literary consultant to Klasky Csupo animation studios.

Although clearly influenced by his various teachers along the way, particularly in connection with their relations to “Language” poetry, Baron’s writing is often centered on a fludity of movement in line and meaning strongly influenced by film.


partials (San Francisco: e.g. press, 1985); Return of the World (Berkeley: O Books 1998); (this...seasonal journal) (...) (Providence: Pardigm Press, 1990); Outside (Bolinas, California: Avenue B Books, 1995); Tell (Norman, Oklahoma: texture press, 1995); That Looks at One and Speaks (San Diego: Factory School Books, 2001); TV Eye (Phoenix: Chax Books, 2003).

from “The Rooms”

I want to write, and writing, write.
so in the effusion,
deems, willow’d, branched,
comes a day. And there,
here she says,
moving in unmoving ways, chords so tight you fall be-
loved, into & out of
pitch-syllable. poverty of glance
tress by a pin hole, someone coming
takes this back from where it came,
the text & the text, for texture,
in tnets not in caves, so in the final sense
are other’s language. book on the table
cup in the mask,
sun sticks in a circle of fire,
first rock or orb I thought would covet thee. that I could love
blood flukes, despair & unbelief, that ‘til my spirit
rises, they raise. sit, stare
sighted, open in summer, to park, stare
or place.

(from Return to the World, 1988)

(series of three)


what is it, without image, metaphor, or doubt—

summer comes as fall approaches,
unstead and distressed to see.

voices hold
as leaves drop

chained to circumstance, brown
flora & other marks whose name

the sound of a chair, wakes
the middle of day, scrawling

sound of the bed, the floor, bereft
of nobility. the dream

in a dreamer’s dream, coming
in a room, bored with reason,
even with reasoning. even the want
of need, & back again, a like-

geometry. a game, counting
windows by the road,

sitting on the deck, what passes for
silence as if it were a figure

gesturing the hand. Bearing
each hand back towards

likenesses of imagery, old
father, older father, apprentice-

ship of facts, walking, walking
appearances of land.


what is this interior motivation—

to be given strength for everything
that blends into one. The vast

empty desert,
endless &

flooded with water. Like a movement shoehow
exapnding on rochs, that utterance

bordering the field. Or is it
entrapment I meant to find

how beautiful and delicate, even
fragile, the framed

sad head was. A statue
a running set of monologues,

gripless and fortunate, wavering
indecision like a mask amid tracing elements.

the period the flower
of even questions asked.

uneven borrowed stares
of the irradiataed risk.


is it moments, out of place, there’s dust on the floor—

the particular means of a particular shape.
is it morning & the fall and rising of sheets,

drapes, not the window or cars going by
outside the door. or the motion of sleep

as a statement of health, a statement of words,
of necessity. a problem of gaining, to

augment the self the untouched key
remembers. This, then in being,

taken reluctantly, fullest brightest scale
trying to reach the flattest modality.

searching uncertainty even
rain unfolds, even rain


(from Tell, 1995)


he wanted the experience back & into
the narrow regions the music

telling & from the distance toward he fixture
the camera moving clapping

a breeze the weather moving & a sound distinct
rain or a street a circumference

where the travels would each
& after sleep only

turning the ankles knees locked as if an arrow
losing a bend the entirety of silence

a light wind changing after a changing frost
a declarative moment the sound of a bell

to own is each an image picked ripe and found
in a jar a shelf of sand

a line over & about velocity & a list of things corrected
surrounding the pitch of day the rock

like a sound in the mind centuries overcome
by the significance of a phrase

“bouquet of roses in sunset” metaphor the real
emergence of colors the dusk brown hue

here in the morning after the harmonies have left
which is ever constant adversity like a fountain

made in the mist of the fountain the stream
fashioned in the sense of a stream in the light alone

the abundance of inactivity
the tangle of mass

(from Outside, 1995)

from “(INDEX)”


there’s only an outside that comes from the inside
how many takes it takes to fill the lens

Placed and permeating capacity composition discerns control
when you count one who drew the course

or moved constellations afloat
a chain or chair a seat the ground until the edge

together to shake or form one mass
or clipping of stone “a single life”

a cell a hut to hide in
the strive against to stand corrode

Who made the track by signing addition
to avail a censor

originally a critic an opinion
not a contract rending throats

which merely means to talk to get it down
to where inaction was which merely means together and apart

across the other other
Coined from steel both

chapters unafraid the clouds are
charcoal vapor variations covered with cloth

A clump of citizens’ senses
a bulb or sphere stopped

to drag
without them & entrusted

(from Outside, 1995)

from “(INDEX)”


there’s only an outside that comes from the inside
comes a narration rending what happens to be

The secret eternity weakness serenity’s calm
soaking the breeze

The sound of the drifter
reading desolate isolation wintering

tales of sudden unlit figures
resting the faculty

he said that she says writes
what she writes he says

the real who
unmystified forced to get out among branches

passes a building thinking belief
teped isolation blinding the page

overcome with himself he
who writes it is

unfinished work
labors cultivation

learning the letter’s pronounced
with only one tongue

only the thought
the remnant of time

(from Outside, 1995)


when you say (what
I think you say, that you prefer the
ordinarily immersed transcendental line,
what do you mean? For me
there is a secret to each
unraveling (like) film
moving an audience from one
matrix to the other . starting out to find
the “why of it” seems to generate
silence . (a squirrel
jumping from one tree,
the maximum of force
from which all things deliver.

I’ve known this conversation before,
and it’s ours, meaning
yours, mine and his, but I also love
The small & feel of the sun
on the balcony over the backyard
in the morning . waking
is constantly unattended, as if feeling
would rouse the day
as ciphers do, to find
a page that reads

each metamorphosis is there
when you’re ready.

entering what appears to be a long trance
or just sleeping too late even knowing
that the painting in the next room
is really a clock & the clock
over the fireplace an object
found on the street, shy
of what comes as intention
or judgment.

Outside the alphabet of each stone,
The idea baducted by loss
& the meaning of loss . the question of mis-
representation as a color of skin
or speech as the suns’ reflected
by trees & the artifice of buildings.

as a footnote then
the form of an apparent journal
by less caustic remarks . but the
remainder stays the same
because a voice
is common & prosaic
to the question of vanity
& number . (the gardener cuts
grass & the smell
the scarcity of change . no,
there must be presence to time
as if it were devotion.

Buddhists meditate
on death.

to Martha Ronk

(from That Looks at One and Speaks, 2001)


so you add to each day
a monstrous figure undressed
or undressing each state
with less heart than mind,
an outline of spirit, feeling
& growth . (pinapple sage in a pot
by the window, direct & laconic,
wanting the sun.

ideas & associations trace the subject of art
& the problem of light . reading old letters,
abstract & real, gone &

the mind as part of the body respons to distinct imagery

trying to break things down.
because it is singular
in the world, sentiment
& disfigurement, caring &
the opposite of fiction . (like aloe
outdoors, what manner
is redundant, what
motive regurgitates sound?

Isolation respects the concept
of life, drunk or drinking
each doorway . my sense
of a house is one that’s
unnumbered, equally
held & unbroken . that night
we sat by the stairs,
thinking of parallel visions.

tender, beneficent favors,
water boiling (kindly
generous meanings . limbs still
carry the sail no matter how
avarice or self-centered
waking is . but does that change
the music of change?
rather, watch each fire
as sleep modifies
each pronoun’s response
to a place that seemingly
has no concept behind
or in front of—

one judgment, one logic
or symbol addressed.

to Lee Hickman

(from That Looks at One and Speaks, 2001)


[“I want to write, and writing, write.]
Reprinted from Return of the World (Berkeley: O Books, 1998). Copyright ©1988 by Todd Baron. Reprinted by permission of the author and O Books.

“(series of three)”
Reprinted from Tell (Norman, Oklahoma: texture press, 1995). Copyright ©1995 by Todd Baron. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“transparency,” “C” and “W”
Reprinted from Outside (Bolinas, California: Avenue B, 1995). Copyright ©1995 by Todd Baron. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“2” and “3”
Reprinted from That Looks at One and Speaks (San Diego: Factory School Books, 2001). Copyright ©2001 by Todd Baron. Reprinted by permission of the author.

W. S. Rendra

W[illibrordus] S[urendra] Broto/Wahyu Sulaiman Rendra [Indonesia]

Born into a Roman Catholic family in Solo, West Java, in 1935, Rendra was baptized as Willibrordus Surendra Broto, but changed his name to Wahyu Sulaiman Rendra when he embraced Islam upon his marriage in 1970 to Sitoresmi Prabunigrat, his second wife. Throughout much of his life we he was known simply as Rendra.

He studied English literature and culture at Gajah Mada University in Yogykarta in central Java, but did not graduate, being involved in his first theatrical production for which he was employed. He staged his first important play, Dead Voices, in 1963. Rendra was fascinated by theater since it could embrace both his interest in religious ritual and Western-influenced avant-garde experiments. His sometimes audacious readings and his own poems and the outrageousness of his theater performances brought him wide attention throughout the sixties and into the 1970s. The press gave him the name "Burung Merak," the "Peacock."

Increasingly in the 1970s and 1980s, Rendra moved away from his controversial innovative experiments to an embracement of multi-ethnic cultural expressions throughout Indonesia. In a 1969 drama, he required his actors to give up dialogues, using only their bodies and simple sounds such as "Bib bop," "zzzzz," and "rambate rate rata," performances which journalist poet Goenawan Mohamad described as "mini-word theater."

Among Rendra's 1970s plays were Mastodon, The Condors, The Struggle of the Naga Tribe, and The Regional Secretary, some of which were banned because of their criticism of the second President of Indonesia, Suharto.

He also performed Western theater such as works by Shakespeare, Brecht, and the Greeks. Looking younger than his years, Rendra played Hamlet into his late 60s.

During the Suharto reign, Rendra lived in a poor district of Jakarta, visited by artists from around the world. He was increasingly involved in poetry during this period, using both his performances and readings as a way to gather the masses. In 1979, during a reading at the Ismail Marzuki art center in Jakarta, agents of Suharto threw ammonia bombs onto the stage and arrested the poet. He was imprisoned in the Guntur military prison for none months, kept in solitary confinement.

After his release from prison, Rendra continued performing and reading, starring in his own eight-hour long play, Panembaha Reso, a work centered on the succession of power in Indonesia. In his later years, Rendra received numerous literary awards, including the Art of the Indonesia Government award in 1970, the Prize of the Academy Jakarta, and the Main Book Prize of the Ministry of Education and Culture in 1976. He was often mentioned as a possible choice of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Rendra's poetry is narrative and colloquial, sometimes employing sounds and rhythms such as those he used in his theatrical productions.
Rendra died of coronary heart disease in 2009.

Ballada Orang-Orang Tercinta (Kumpulan sajak); Blues untuk Bonnie; Empat Kumpulan Sajak; Sajak-sajak Sepatu Tua; Mencari Bapak; Perjalanan Bu Arminah; Nyanyian Orang Urakan; Potret Pembangunan Dalam Puisi; Disebabkan Oleh Angin; Orang Orang Rangkasbitung

[help is sought in obtaining the city and publisher and the dates of these books)


Ballads and Blues, trans. by Burton Raffel, Harry Aveling, and Derwent May (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1974); featured in Contemporary Indonesian Poetry, ed. and trans. Harry Aveling (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia: University of Queensland Press, 1975)


One hot Sunday
in a church full of people
a young priest stood at the pulpit.
His face was beautiful and holy
his eyes sweet like a rabbit's
and he lifted up both his hands
which were lovely like a lily
and said:
"Now let us disperse.
There is no sermon today."

No one budged.
They sat tight in their rows.
There were many standing.
They were stiff. Refused to move.
Their eyes stared.
Their mouths hung open
they stopped praying
but they all wanted to hear.
Then all at once they complained
and together with the strange voice from their mouths
which had to be quickly stifled.

"You can see I am still young.
Allow me to care for my own soul.
Please go away.
Allow me to praise holiness
I want to go back to the monastery
to meditate on the glory of God."

Again they complained.
No one moved.
Their faces looked sad.
Their eyes questioned.
Their mouths gaped
wanting very much to hear.

"This people ask for guidance, Lord
God, why have you left me at this moment?
Like a flock of hungry lazy jackals
they hang their mouths.
It is hot. I piss in my pants.
Father. Father. Why hast Thou forsaken me?"

Still no one moved.
Their faces were wet.
Their hair was wet.
Their whole bodies were wet.
Sweat poured onto the floor
because it was so hot
and of the misery they bore.
The stench was extraordinarily foul
And their questions took stank foully.

"My brothers, children of the heavenly father.
This is my sermon.
My very first sermon.
Life is very difficult
Dark and difficult
There are many torments.
So in this regard
the wise way to live is ra-ra-ra
Ra-ra-ra, hump-pa-pa, ra-ra-ra.
Look at the wisdom of the lizard
the created God loves most
Go close to the ground
Your souls are squeezed between rocks
Like a lizard ra-ra-ra
like a centipede hum-pa-pa."

All spoke together:
Ra-ra-ra. Hum-pa-pa.
With a roar everyone in the church:
Ra-ra-ra. Hum-pa-pa.

"To the men who like guns
who fix the flags of truth to their bayonet-points
I want you to listen carefully
to lu-lu-lu, la-li-lo-lu.
Lift your noses high
so you don't see those you walk on.
For in this way li-li-li, la-li-lo-lu.
Cleanse the blood from your hands
so as not to frighten me
then we can sit and drink tea
and talk of the sufferings of society
and the nature of love and death.
Life is full of misery and sin.
Life is a big cheat.
La-la-la, li-li-li, la-li-lo-lu.

They stood. They stamped their feet on the floor
Stamping in one rhythm and together
Uniting their voices in:
La-la-la, li-li-li, la-li-lo-lu.
Carried along in the strength of their unity
they shouted together
precisely and rhythmically:
La-la-la, li-li-li, la-li-lo-lu.

"Now we live again.
Feel the force of the flow of the blood.
In your heads. In your necks. In your breasts.
In your stomachs. Throughout the rest of your bodies.
[See my fingers shaking with life
The blood is bong-bon-bong.
The blood of life is bang-bing-bong.
The blood of the common life is bang-bing-bong-bong.
Life must be lived in a noisy group.
Blood must mix with blood.
Bong-bong-bong. Bang-bing-bong."

The people exploded with the passion of the lives.
They stood on the pews.
Banged with their feet.
Bells, gongs, door-pailings, window panes
If it made a noise they pounded on it.
With the one rhythm
In accompaniment to their joyous shouts of:
Bong-bong-bong. Bang-bing-bong.

"We must exalt love.
Love in the long grass.
Love in the shops of jews.
Love in the backyard of the church.
Love is unity and tra-la-la.
Tra-la-la. La-la-la. Tra-la-la.
Like the grass
we must flourish
in unity and love.
Let us pulverize ourselves.
Let us shelter beneath the grass.
Let us love beneath the grass.
Taking as our guide:
Tra-la-la. La-la-la. Tra-la-la."

The whole congregation roared.
They began to dance. Following the one rhythm
They rubbed their bodies against each other
Men against women. Men against men.
Women with women. Everyone rubbed.
And some rubbed their bodies against the walls of the church.
And shouted in a queer mad voice
shrilly and together:
Tra-la-la. La-la-la. Tra-la-la.

"Through the holy prophet Moses
God has said:
Thou must not steal.
Junior civil servants stop stealing carbon.
Serving-girls stop stealing fried chicken bones.
Leaders stop stealing petro.
And girls, stop stealing your own virtue.
Of course, there is stealing and stealing.
The difference is: cha-cha-cha, cha-cha-cha.
All things come from God
which means
everything belongs to everyone.
Everything is for everyone.
We must be one. Us for us.
Cha-cha-cha, cha-cha-cha.
This is the guiding principle."

They roared like animals:
Grrr-grrr-grrr. Hura.
Cha-cha-cha, cha-cha-cha.
They stole window panes.
They took everything in the church.
The candelabra. The curtains. The carpets.
The silverware. And the statues covered with jewels.
Cha-cha-cha, they sang:
Cha-cha-cha over and over again
They smashed the whole church
Like wet panting animals
running to-and-fro.
Cha-cha-cha, cha-cha-cha.
Then suddenly the shrill voice of an old woman was heard:
"I am hungry. Hungrry. Hu-u-unggrryyy."
And suddenly everyone felt hungry.
Their eyes burned.
And they kept shouting cha-cha-cha.

"Because we are hungry
let us disperse.
Go home. Everyone stop."

Cha-cha-cha, they said
and their eyes burned.

"Go home.
The mass and the sermon are over."

Cha-cha-cha, they said.
They didn't stop.
They pressed forward.
The church was smashed. And their eyes flashed.

"Lord, Remember the sufferings of Christ.
We are all his honored sons.
Hunger must be overcome by wisdom."

They advance and beat against the pulpit.
They dragged the priest from the pulpit.
They tore his robes.
A Fat woman kissed his fine mouth.
And old woman licked his pure breast.
And girls pulled at both his legs.
And thus they raped him in a noisy throng.

Then they chopped his body to bits.
Everyone at his flesh. Cha-cha-cha.
They feasted in the strength of their unity.
They drank his blood.
They sucked the marrow from his bones.
Until they had eaten everything
and there was nothing left.

Translated from the Bahasa Indonesia by Harry Aveling

Copyright ©by W. S. Rendra; English language copyright ©1975 by Harry Aveling
Reprinted from Harry Aveling, ed. and trans. Contemporary Indonesia Poetry (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia: University of Queensland Press, 1975.
W. R. Rendra's last public performance

November 25, 2010

Nanni Cagnone

Nanni Cagnone [Italy]

Born in Carcare, in the province of Liguria, Italy in 1939. His first book of poetry was What’s Hecuba to Him or He to Hecuba? published in English by Out of London Press in 1975. His second book, published in Italian, was Andatura of 1979. Among his other publications are Vaticinio (1984), Armi senza insigne (1988), Anima del vuoto (1993), Il popolo delle cose (1999), and Doveri dell’esilio (2002).

Cagnone has also published several plays and fiction, including Comuni smarrimento (1990).

He was the Senior editor of Marcatré, the managing editor of Design Italia, and, more recently he headed the Italian publishing house Coliseum. He also contributed to numerous literary and cultural journals, Uomini e Idee, Caleidoscopio, Il Verri, and Periodo ipotetico, among them.

Cagnone has also published theoretical essays and aphorismis, including I giovani invalidi (1967) and Sfortuna dell’authoronia (1977), and has edited works of Gerard Manley Hopkins and others.

Of his own poetry, Cagnone writes: “Poetry is an extraneous work, something sleep would teach consciousness. It demands receptive thought and desires learned in response. It does not comprise an act of gathering the world as an encouragement to meaning or a flattery of language but the experience of a faithfulness that would retain the inutterable. Poetry is the action of going beyond what one can think.”


Andatura (Milan: Società de Poesia, 1979); Vaticinato (Naples: SEN, 1984); Notturno sopra il giorno (Milan: Severgnini, 1985); Armi senza insigne (Milan: Coliseum, 1988); Anima del vuto (Bari: Palomar, 1993); Avvento (Bari: Palomar, 1995); Il popolo delle cose (Milan: Jaca Book, 1999); Doveri dell’esilio (Genoa-Pavia: Night Mail, 2002)


What’s Hecuba to Him or He to Hecuba?, trans. by David Verzoni (New York: Out of London Press, 1975); The Book of Giving Back, trans. by Stephen Sartarelli (New York: Edgewise, 1998); Index Vaccus, trans. by Richard Milazzo (New York: Edgewise, 2005)

Undeniable Things
Translated from the Italian by Paul Vangelisti


It won’t be the cloudy sky,
nor the faulty accord,
to neglect one of the two
on the mule tracks of childhood—
it will be us, in an unhurried
moment, delighted
to be deafened and healing.

We were pretenders,
then daring serious-mindedness
not in the least
aware of a glimmering,
only a startling of colors
in false light.

We as we are now,
we who are here
a dream left behind.


From experience,
confusing frost with dew,
knowing in each tear
a musing gladness
and a fearless something
in the disbelieving dusk.

ready senility of these leaves,
and a congress of crumbs
after the bread’s defeat.

Unavoidable questions
as to our abbreviation.


Not imploring,
as ditches of scant rancid waters
swell in the dimness, rushing
toward the mutiny of considered light,
toward sunset, precious pang,
and that great procurer of twilight,
with his invitations, his certainty
that dark the suitable husband.


And now, why
amaze the night meadow
with other sounds? Down there
they know what they must,
without any envy of befalling,
lying down there in many tongues
(no sort of grammar however,
nor discontent over any ties),
next to a rumbling of water
that throughout centuries
affirms the floridness—
the misunderstood.


One day
we can no longer resist the details:
the plaster still cracked,
here, the exclamation
of a book put aside,
that shadows’ insisting
toward dark. And we,
bare trees, unaware
of the bountifulness of design
and minutely enthralled.

Anomalies—between pebbles
and amulets, rejected gifts.


Going on without moving,
and taking measures
when rumpled time
making a hiding place
in a shared world
so pliant to our figures,
that returns to a burlesque
along a dream. Going on
to stop dead at once,
tangled, in a weft
not depending on us,
in the wisdom demanded
of our defeats.


Only to an adolescent
are poets necessary,
dear authors of dizziness.
In the shadows much later,
one knows their inconsistency,
that jealous perhaps
unintentional babbling,
exasperated plaint
or fiercely crying—
eager poverty of words.

I was shipwreck.


I don’t know where Vestfossen is,
and this goes
for the name of every color
as in cloth cloud or pigment
from shadow in shadow a color happens.

Then by returning lost, retreated.
Noisy by now what I might know,
and entangled in the minutes.
Here in the slow clay’s dominion,
a distinct light, quiet swarm.
The season’s dialectal here.


Early morning,
that arrives without escort
but for his habits,
dreamy lad already charmed
by an afternoon’s uneasiness,
and panting of steps
within many fences, searching
the boundless claims of grass—
tall-worn-out November grass,
its hopes are
nothing but ours.

Man, disciple of shadow,
lower your eyelids.


Before, where in time
the antagonist of distances
tamed the void,
how many things cared for
that are not, exiled to hothouses
having no season.

That which sprouts here,
never undone—
by the indolence of flowering.


Winter, smile.
Granting gardens in this ditch,
when with quiet brevity
morning sinks not transfigured
into nightfall, there is no time,
and the wait is a dazzled instant
night grew in itself
if it wouldn’t know
the all bitter flowing.

Enwrapped, consumed.


From a cliff, now,
and not among the gallant roses
I recall dozing
on others’ pangs, when—
it must have been when we,
as little invertebrates,
with equal nimbleness,
bent on squandering the hours
dreaming them one by one,
not leaving them unheeded
in a reticent universe.

We—each not separated


This slow coming to the truth isn’t mine,
for I’d know how to bring down the world
like an disastrous commander,
at least encountering things
instead of looking ahead
at whether surviving their weariness—
undeniable things, unsealed exordium
whose fulfillment requires a you,
this reckless ornament of the I.


Today a falcon, I tell you,
hovering above 13th century towers
like an aging history student.
One may look after the dust the ash,
move soundlessly toward the ruins, until
(a moment that might commonly
be confused in others)
something grieves shouts.

It is an undeserved world.
Gratitude is needed.


An awakening, those planes inclined
sharply toward the apex
oblivious to the fjord,
long awaiting completion
until that sky
won’t crumble over Bjørvika.

Having their music, the seagulls
will not be quiet before us
who hold the world’s scores—
we of the mindful coat of arms,
we too like refugees,
in search of a chord.


Instead of roots, as a boy,
I prefer the tips of cedars,
which, as we say, loom
and more readily sway
when a western wind
comes to stir them.
That deepening green
which at night becomes
unfinished black
is the badge of the few
who do not return,
if ever they left a land
that’s bleeding kinship.


On what absent-minded stage
can the unrelenting correct itself,
like a plough that gives up
before the woods
to return to the careful surface
forced to split into clods,
having on the horizon
emptied granaries
ransacked storerooms,
another winter, you know—
torment or farewell.

We ought to dread
a ready place.


The lunaria perennis leaves what,
empty resonant pages,
not so different
than an old unfailing poet
who goes around chapping
the day’s cloudy importance
with the tyranny of his appearance.
Blindly going on, what to say,
as that face brightens
in the peevish light of November.
It’s for itself—not a means,
that face, to crumple
into a metaphor.

What sense is there
in desalinating salt?


Barefoot toward the furnaces,
and the sheen of the ground
where, taken root, crumbs of glass.
Going back there slowly enough,
already written story for rewriting,
as without us time erased,
that greedy servant of quantity
who still conceals the blame,
the persuaded maladies, the too revered
intolerances, and especially
we who lacked compassion.

The earthenware in shards
was not in the accords,
it wasn’t time she return,
extraneous, to her raw earth.


The same tongue—
here, almost trickery—
then the other by itself.
Glimmer without shape,
quiet not-knowing
or this childhood of saying
at the verge of a woods
likewise dark.

Oh irredeemable stranger,
now as just one man
in the gleaming who knows,
in the friendliness of time.


Nothing in the private
winter light of the garden
that is worth a persimmon,
convinced chrome orange
hesitating at the branch.

What will be the edge
between cracked and smooth? I can’t tell,
it’s like going toward something
that you can’t learn by remembering.


where nods and smiles
are losing us,
over there knowing rooms
of loose things,
and in the open
a ramified airiness
while it rains.
Steady and mutual,

Then, next to sleep,
the lonely threshold.


He turns
toward the inward appearance,
laments the scant shadow on the face,
while the world says it’s unfinished.
A hand put out profitably
is complementary to withdrawing
the unused entirety, as
in its demand confusing it.

And we—here and there,
clamoring along walls,
and not wherever
without precaution.


To have thought, here’s something
for which outcome my accountant
would shakes his head. Why blame him?
I see with an aversion to looking,
while a surface stirs ahead
light didn’t wish to flatter
and darkness not to still.

I pass by here like a bestower.
Then the day vexes me.
You are the branch’s end
that air would take to caressing.


An Aleppo pine
high on the rocky cliff, alone
and not in the sentence-making woods.
Then, along the tired lane,
a streetlight. Bearing in mind
how the sea behaves below,
look close at the stretch harshly lighted
that spells earth’s primitive redness.

You pass by without knowing
among varied things that even up,
looking carefully not to ask questions.


With the nights’ reluctance
toward dawn,
impersonal honor,
believing in having to intertwine,
follow things
dry in a cavity like my throat,
which are only a glaze
of names, syntactical habits.
You know, ‘world’ is a word
without owners,
though one may
reasonably doubt.

Among its angles its edges
does each thing stillrejoice in itself?


If ever an Ezra Pound
slowly alive
lingers at an incurable distance
from the buried James Joyce
(all this in Zurich,
Friedhof Fluntern), we will think
it’s a photo, after all. Otherwise,
we must consider possible that
a minute resumes the novel of regret
as we recall ourselves dying,
we again look ahead at a promised
or already finished land,
so wearily cultivated.


Fathersmothers children,
exhausted mutual presence
of deceased and living
in the opaque material
to which not resigned, we
who go on with disdain
towards the inevitable, avoiding
wrens much too still
among muddy leaves;
while winter pretends we’re his,
this stubborn season
that doesn’t promise else
in its dead light.


Daydreaming one sees them,
scanty figures,
ashen as a crime
or amorously spellbound.

Envy of a life
without my vertebra,
a not prideful flowing
making a habit of smiling—
as in some out-of-the-way inn,
you know, when you miss a turn
and who knows what to hope
from the mistake.


Hollow of lost sound,
drop diverted from the brook
dried up in sand,
and in the silence
holding the clocks still
one of us in the seed of a sigh,
then the dusky conch—
another sound.


To wake alongside the furrows
where unsleeping seeds ripen
without sound, without dreaming of
being a grain of wheat, then leaving,
tracks surviving the upturned clods,
like the winter farmer,
earth’s orphan, that moves
useless toward a house
as the hail would.


Shadow, harsh sentence
for whom
beneath the blows of too many words
learns that the book
can be entire
and silence concave, but
cannot put to sleep thoughts
that in others don’t find
even a makeshift bed.

The light today has grown tired.
Who knows if tomorrow’s been picked.


Which nails,
or comb capable of tangles,
in the ravaged house
sinks deep within us?
The mourning is unburied,
and you don’t know the thorn’s demand.
Incoherent, surviving emptiness,
if soaked by events
we keep watching the unripe sickle,
the startled murky glimmer.

Festive falsehood of resurrection
and wrath’s decayed urgency.
My heedless memories
standing in the road, broken down.
Conversations enlarged by silence.

You know, fleeing we don’t catch up
with what’s to come.


It isn’t raining, and the ruined parched
we an unused ditch.
Surely the unforgettable
listless millennium empties
in vain, complaining perhaps,
like a blackbird banished among crows.

Don’t write words
for which you’ll be sorry waking up,
or in the bitter gathering of dying.


Disappearing, like a wave
that forgets itself in waves,
and we mustn’t call senseless
the alternating sorrows,
as the proverbs of the poor teach us,
the only philosophers not to fail,
resisting the satiety of western thought.

But the wave that comes true last
holds no experience, stirs anxiousness
along the rocky bottom
until it takes us up entirely.


in the gleam of day.

But then they become figures,
the world’s naming,
idle women
in painters’ studios
and distantly
the hand wears out in rust.

Fellow men,
wheezing all around you
is everything.


Shameless light plays with the glass,
stops the glance that would want
the same declivity, salty grasses
toward the Renaissance of gardens.

In the meanwhile,
spores of the possible keep watch
where my window’s world
proves itself most green—
oh those spores keep busy,
they push me away
from the ultimate library.


Sixth day of September:
her tongue’s murmur
and my thoughts’
deformed canon.

The forgetful needle
in a corner of the room
can finally sew—
comes and goes
binding the scattered and dazed,
before the port has frozen
and a bold farewell
calls the day’s
briefness wasted.

Sewing, sensible again.


Who sowed the seed
from which this great ease—
may remain apart without yielding,
like some cloudy actor.
Together humbly
we look to where,
not knowing
of which where we are talking,
though certainly it may be here.

I will never
a single voice.


My father at home,
the last days,
sitting with his weight
in the inclement emptiness
that never healed his certainties,
sitting bewildered
at not understanding
why children without lingering
nor shelter, never did their embrace
shake him. Children that
in his indisputable universe
diminished him.

Here, fugitive identities
in the dead tangle.


This light
is like a siege,
a flitting inside a beehive,
and no shelter for us
who will be stormed
before dusk.

So you rethink winter,
the dark’s invention
that endangered
our feelings,
restrained their breathing
but promised them to March—
March that bursts
like a thug
into the ailing we.


Dead you roam
within that circle, no more
in time’s resignation
but in its unknown persistence.

There are things to say,
lately, as
the leaf is double,
smooth on one side,
and that door again
you leave ajar,
and above everything
the sea’s discontent
not yet avoiding the shore.
It landed at high tide,
and this is irrefutable.


The quivering force—then
resonant to speak,
among deafened sounds
a stunted word
with its unknown spur—
insinuating itself
into the convulsive phonation of weeping,
most hostile of our summonses,
that won’t end with these tears
won’t come to an understanding
but constantly follows spies on us
like an adolescent in heat
hangs behind women on the boulevard,
waiting for them to want him.


At last, writing the history
of minute things—
the event of a comb in the hair
or the worship of mother-of-pearl chips.

It’s time to wake up, consistent
in the baffling wholeness of fragments:
it’s here we will be won—
a fogged glass,
an appointment with dust.


In the great fires
in empty prayers,
where for a clear inability
our words must swoon,
the despair of centuries grows.
There are too many accomplices
too few helpers, and clashing
the heart hastens
to wild simpler sorrows,
that one may
slowly answer.


In sleep’s delicate articulations,
for blurred obstinate dreams
we obey childhood—sitting here
and talking of boundless subjects,
while the gravel crunches late.

Followers or pursuers, they have
my same name—they push me,
vanish in a wave of earth.


A look without motion:
missing the living stalk,
the dedicated branch, and goodbye
fatherland of the five senses,
surrendered to the folly of knowing
while the world shows itself
in the hare among the grasses
grasses around the hare,
in the bright-tattered
skin of sky, in the late hour
making the day steep.


Support in keeping quiet,
airy forgetfulness of speaking
as one glances through
the previous deprivation,
when feverish breathing
and lapping earth,
like a lickerish sea
must return to itself, each time
simply darker.

That wasn’t a wedding—
it was the inclemency
of an empty passing.


The ink spot is suited
to the written page,
tells of things happening outside,
more peculiar than we might believe,
and the kindness of an eraser,
its remedy, is another
daily servitude.

How many things are needed
to make of us
something simple?


A fern from the wall’s rough vase.
Learned in the anatomy of gardens,
you’ll say, it was just a fern:
Athyrium filix-foemina.

In the past’s impatient provinces
he lies down crooked
where the grasses rise,
he keeps to springtime’s umbilical—
but his hearing is faulty,
he doesn’t know if, agreeing,
down there they call him son.


Leaving unwatched
the indolent progress of dust,
or reclaiming the present—
rubbing the silver
until it doesn’t raise its voice.

You know, the size of cigarettes
is no longer the same, and you in vain
from door to door, nearbything
not mine, slid from the decades.
Goodbye—time knows it, shuts you in.


Regretful, the day after—
our busy unhappiness,
palms out of place
in the climate’s malevolence
and roses stripped bare
in a tedium of glances.

It’s winter, after all,
no impulsive now,
nothing but a then
for the surrendered foliage for us,
not a call, and this
the unhurt day,
whatever night above the day.


what’s the use of answering you?

I delve where generations tremble
with desultory teaching.

In the growth’s uprising,
in the last scared harvest,
I ought to contemplate
the wild sleepy border.  

Ruinous comparison
measuring old against young,
anxiousness and sighs.
How nimble we were, another time,
and happy if the harbor lights
among ships in the dark
like ancient continents, and we
with considered frenzy
in the atrium of gardens to come.

All stays, the bow and the slingshot,
the sudden gem
and the sword’s acumen—
it all stays with us.


Scissoring the myrtle hedge
carefully, sheltered by
the half-shut gate.
The clandestine we
go out at night,
run from the frozen valley
to the sea’s other
promised promised again dimness,
which confined us to the earth
but seemed to have left a passage
in the palm of the hand.

You see him, a porcupine
murmuring his steps—
but where were you going, lofty
in your deciduous light?


Convulsive style
of atoms in a gale
and their ordained fall,
drops that shriek like migrating
birds on window glass.

A blade of grass in the crowd
or a petal among others
in springtime. Although
he turns to this to that,
how can he say ‘you’?


That advancing—
banally I mean
her nipples
when forward,
like spontaneous flowers
in youthful season.

The old metaphors
won’t let us be,
for the value
of commonplaces
(‘lonely as a dog’
and not so much dog).


That smart unruly boy
of the seeds of light, passing
among things grows dim
(when do things ever
align, not having
the undaunted faith of dreams?),
and dimly wishes to value
those remaining shivers of light,
in his mind
making torrential actual
puddles, and from the decisive dark
a shadowy gradation, a
sorry uncertainty of time.


Roses with manure
and some things with words,
shrewd precautions
keeping alive
the lovely illusion—making happen
or miraculously breathing
giving life without labor,
without weeping’s nourishment,
then gazing at those lines
that one upon the other,
florid as roses,
and the graceful rhetoric
will make them wither.


Wintry years, by whose
distorting light
we don’t see the threshold.
One of us, dandled
and already lamented
by plaintive shrill words,
notices his shoes
are muddy.


Das Gerede der Leute,
lieber Hölderlin—hearsay
that avoided you indeed.
The devotees who study you
do worse, they grant you
editorial pardon
(so madness was esteemed).

In short, nothing was owed you—
it was just like you
to venture the heart,
and still today
there isn’t a climbing rose
joining at the window
through which you saw entire
the Neckar of miserliness.

* Das Gerede der Leute, lieber Hölderlin [“People’s chatter, dear Hölderlin”]


Finite space, rim of a drum.
It would help to incarnate while you can,
to glean light even after nightfall,
take a stroll in the mist
and never leave the moment
alone, or it stings everything.

At the end, at the end of the surging
sunset, in the insecure maturing
burning without a grieving scheme,
the solemn episode of the leaves—
rustling and that’s all. Rustling.


Things thrown away
will be renowned
in another life, a steep-furious life
without theologies without preambles,
nothing but getting wet staying awake
being involved,
and seeing reluctance dazzled.
Losing yourself, just once,
in the old background noise of radio
back when
distance wasn’t scarce.


Ah the soft delicate airy,
sweet uproar of an early morning
far from weariness,
and never satisfied wonder
that things one by one,
for the world’s constant turning to.

Understand, usurpers:
if moths eat the wool,
the wool doesn’t eat anyone.


It wasn’t for me the etched
and frosted glass, which blown
in that tall earth with ashen skin,
slowly rattling
me off through the years
to push me into the open
toward the ailing,
the resigned questions, the wheels;
so I didn’t come back
before having forgotten,
before my appearance
become equal to the sleepless
certainly more opaque glass,
which I had in mind, then.


Almost seventy years—then,
time bending, you again see the way,
if not the house, of origin.
A way without infant’s cries, silent.
Many will have died there
in the meantime, to lessen
your pretense, recalling
there is no proportion
between being born and dying,
and you don’t make friends
with the intervening emptiness.


Thunder-lightening without effect,
it’s not raining—and I in the interlude,
having this lukewarm habit
of pulling every plug, look
from the dark at the Southern magnolia
that isn’t here, rooted in another
bitterness, and still alive, I know,
though surrounded by tears.


You wouldn’t want
the insipid chronicle,
or what the art of physiognomy
tells me with no purpose…
Better like this, keeping in mind
the apex, the baroque pinnacle
on my roof, if not distracted
by the unexpected wren
that looks all around
or pokes in the millet, and far off
sees every one of our affairs
yield confusingly.


The look of country newlyweds
in front of the town hall.
The surface intensity
on the one day that shakes them,
steady in the resolute smile
of mended clothes
improvised makeup
reconciled loneliness.

A photograph
to frame abstractly,
while awaiting them is poor soil
that doesn’t give discounts, soil blacker
than the bride’s dress.


Stranger everywhere,
if without purpose
you move in the skimming way
of the breeze, my intangible
more scattered people,
for whom it’s not given to live
among orderly, allotted things
that have lost
the ancient bearing of living beings.

Your misunderstood empty greed
that in the end lifts you up


In the look
of who stops
without hello to here,
becoming is tired.

Then, in the time among years,
uproar of subterranean rivers
and earth’s footprints on thoughts,
and all these books to look through
not to read, because
the heart’s corroded contour.

English language translation copyright (c) 2010 by Paul Vangelisti